So Bad It’s Good

5 In-America-Only Cultural Travel Activities

A joke we overheard in a coffee shop in Italy:

Question: What’s the difference between yogurt and the United States of America?

Answer: Yogurt has culture.

Okay, maybe that’s a little funny. The problem is, it isn’t true. The United States is full of culture. It isn’t as gourmet as, say, Italy. Nor is it as old as China or as enveloping as India, or as snobby as France. But it most certainly is there. American culture is diverse, interesting, and, we’d argue, it’s one of the most fun national cultures on the planet.

Want proof? Below is our recommendation for five distinctly American cultural experiences that you are unlikely to find written up in any guidebook.

Note: For this post we only considered experiences that are available across the country. Anything that’s exclusive to a specific ethnic group or region — attending Burning Man in Nevada or eating gumbo in New Orleans or getting yelled at by a taxi driver in New York City, for instance — was disqualified. We also nixed holiday events, like the 4th of July American Independence Day.

While this post was written with non-American travelers in mind, those from the United States may also gain some travel tips by reading on . . .

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Toilet Restaurants Aim for a Crappy Experience

Oh, if you are wondering, each Modern Toilet restaurant does have proper bathrooms. They are very well marked to prevent patrons from making the horrible mistake.

We can’t imagine the marketing meeting during which some one pitches the concept for a toilet-themed restaurant — and the others at the meeting approving of the idea. And yet presumably such a meeting has happened. More than once. There are at least three dozen (!) restaurants on planet Earth where toilets and urinals, poop and potty talk, are the central attraction. What’s more, those restaurants are so flush with success that a couple of new ones open every year.

Sounds delicious! Where can I find these toilet restaurants? we’re sure you are asking yourself right now (because we’re in tune with our readers like that). Here’s our review at some crappy dinning experiences in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Germany, Portugal and California:

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The (Love) Hotel Where Every Day is Christmas

Stockings may wind up on the floor instead of over the fireplace

Yes, Virginia (and Mara and Wei and Dev and Ashley), there IS a Santa Claus. And contrary to popular belief, Santa only winters at the North Pole with the Missus! But he’d love to have you visit his permanent residence — in Osaka — if you have a little time, and mischief, on your hands.

That’s right, jolly ol’ Saint Nick makes his home in Japan, at the eyepopping Chapel Christmas, in one of Japan’s thousands of “love hotels.” Santa’s a nice chap, but he’s never naive. He knows when you’ve been bad or good, and he knows there always a little of both going on at the Hotel Chapel Christmas.

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The World’s Most Beautiful Ecological Disaster

The locals call it Hell’s Door.

Environmentalists call it an unmitigated ecological disaster zone.

You may call it a destination on your next adventure vacation.

The “it” in question is a giant firey gas pit near the village of Darwaza (also spelled Derweze) in the middle of Turkmenistan’s Kara-Kum Desert.

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The Titanic To Set Sail. Again.

Titanic, the movie, was an enormous success. Titanic, the ship, not so much.

Though it set sail on its half voyage more than a century ago, the RMS Titanic is still infamous for having provided its passengers with a rather suboptimal travel experience. So it seems peculiar that anyone would want to recreate it. Especially since, today, there’s a huge variety of cruises that offer more luxury and cheaper travel insurance rates than a recreated Titanic would — without the, you know, stigma of having previously drowned hundreds of passengers.

Yet recreating the Titanic cruise ship is exactly what one billionaire plans to do. Clive Palmer, a mining magnate and founder of the Blue Star Line company, is currently constructing the Titanic II.

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7 Amazing Circular Geological Oddities

The man made hole is so large that helicopters and small aircraft can not fly near it without the very real fear of being sucked in!

Spot Cool Stuff has been thinking of cool spots lately. Big geologic spots, that is. Circles on the face of the planet of the sort that would make some one browsing around on Google Earth (or traveling in a spaceship) stop and ask What the heck is that circular thing?

Here’s an overview (literally!) of seven of our favorite such spots. They span six countries on four continents:

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The Hill of Crosses

The Kryziu Kalnas (“The Hill of Crosses”) in northern Lithuania might be the world’s most spontaneous unusual man-made attraction. No one owns it. No one runs it. No one even knows how it came to be.

What is known is this: For as long as anyone can remember, there’s been a 10-meter high mount of earth near the town of Šiauliai that’s been covered in crosses.

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Overnight Inside a Giant Beagle

At this affordable bed and breakfast, paying the bill is not a bitch

Getting sent to the doghouse can be a very good thing if you happen to be traveling through central Idaho. Because there, on a rise on the outskirts of the town of Cottonwood, is where you’ll find the Dog Bark Park Inn, an unusual bed and breakfast that’s shaped like an enormous beagle!

The gregarious proprietors of the Dog Bark Park, Dennis Sullivan and Frances Conklin, describe their property as “a noble and absurd undertaking.” That sounds exactly right to us.

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